My two cents for Pride Month:
When I was a kid I resented the idea of coming out and Pride because internalised homophobia made me see it as attention-seeking. Without realising it I bought into the whole ďthereís no Straight Pride Month!Ē bullshit and associated out-and-proud gay people with preening, self-absorbed crybabies, like how Roseanne Barr once described gay men as fundamentally selfish. It also didnít help that my father was massively homophobic. Heís improved a bit in general attitude, but it was a long road.
What helped me broaden my perspective a little bit was, perhaps obviously, literature. Thereís a short story in Truman Capoteís Music for Chameleons thatís always stuck with me, about a little boy who dreams of being a little girl, and carries the shame of that so deeply that he drifts away from his grandmother, the person who loved him most. She dies with his picture in her hand and he receives a call from a relative telling him that, as well as how wicked he is for having abandoned her, and all the time he canít say that it was because of this thing which society dictated was wrong. I can still get emotional just thinking about that story.
Thereís a great line in the movie Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as the writer at the time when he was researching In Cold Blood: ďEver since I was a child, folks have thought they had me pegged, because of the way I am, the way I talk. And they're always wrong.Ē Capote was a very flamboyant gay man, an effete sort of modern dandy who thrived in the New York social scene. But he came from the South, a world that was (and frequently still is) hostile to LGBT people.
Heís the closest thing I have to a gay hero precisely because he wasnít a hero. He was ambitious, disloyal, manipulative, addicted to drink and cocaine. But he wrote from a very sincere place and was always forthrightly himself, at a time when many wouldnít have dared to be one tenth as open as he was.
Even now the media tends to view the gay experience in very narrow, sexualised terms. Iíve always felt shame about my relative lack of sexual experience - a combination of shyness, anxiety, and poor body-image - partly because the popular depictions of gay men have been promiscuous Adonises who oil up their abs and get sweaty to techno music in dance clubs. Of course thereís nothing wrong whatsoever with being such a person - in fact I covet thee!
- but itís unfortunate that gays in popular culture tend to be only the most photogenic kind. You see this attitude often in gay men themselves, as theyíve internalised the homophobia around them in society, just like I did. Thatís why gay dating profiles stereotypically have such shorthand as ďno fats, no femsĒ and ďstraight-acting gays.Ē
Which is why Iíve always felt that a lot of homophobia (against men, at least) is rooted in misogyny. Femininity is the enemy. When Caesar was said to have had sex with an opposing statesman, the soldiers were more concerned about who played the passive role. Caesar may have conquered him (in battle), they chanted, but he